Essay: The Importance of Positive Communications Around Sustainability

New MCFly writer Kevin Swindells dug out this essay that he submitted to a competition.  We’d love to hear other people’s views on “the importance of positive communications.”  There’s just one criterion – nobody is allowed to quote that glib line about “Martin Luther King told people ‘I have a dream’ not ‘I have a nightmare'”.  Yes, Ed, this means you…

Sustainability is a global, multi-scale issue. From power generation, heavy industry and large-scale manufacturing processes, down to how much water we use when we boil the kettle, sustainability is about resource management and living within our means. It is widely documented by the press, and as a result public awareness of the issue is relatively high. But this awareness doesn’t always inspire action. People’s habits and routines can be notoriously hard to break, and so not only positive but effective, targeted communication of the facts is paramount in order to instigate behavioral change.

With the expansion of telecommunications and the internet, the world is a global forum – communication has never been so easy. Information on almost any subject is readily available at the touch of a button, and is shared just as easily. Amidst all this cyber-traffic, targeting your audience is essential, so that the signal can be deciphered from the noise, and the message gets through to people willing and able to make a change.

Positivity feeds positivity, creating a virtuous circle. If sustainability is communicated in a positive, accessible manner, the audience are more likely to take the information on board, make changes themselves and, even better, reciprocate it to others. If the foundation of the subject is positive action, it gives the cause an inherent energy and drive for continuous improvement. Once a cause gains momentum, it leads to greater understanding, better collaboration and increased productivity. Individuals feel empowered and valued. As incremental changes are achieved, morale is boosted and there is a greater drive to achieve the common goal.

To make a change you must be enthusiastic: you must truly believe in whatever change you desire to make. This is down to education and communication from scientists to the public. Sustainability affects everyone, and if you can make it relevant and engaging to your target audience, they are more likely to make the change. Another key factor is convenience. Make it easier to instigate the change, and it is more likely the change will occur. This can be achieved though government and policy, with initiatives and sponsorship for sustainable practices, and fines and sanctions for non-sustainable practices (on both domestic and commercial scales).

The rationale behind sustainability’s underlying ethos comes from scientific observation, and has developed as a response to global climate change, deforestation, and general environmental degradation. One of the key challenges for communicating sustainability to the masses is the filtering of information from scientists to the general public. This can difficult, as politicians do not always attribute appropriate weightings to sustainability issues, and even if they do, they are not renowned as being effective communicators of the issue. Communication can also be facilitated through the media, social networks, focus groups and campaign groups, all with the view to empower people to facilitate change based upon the freedom of information.

Too often the necessity for more sustainable lifestyles is fronted by the doom and gloom consequences of our development so far, especially the scare tactics employed by the press. The public have a right to unadulterated scientific evidence, and it is important to educate people on the economic, social, cultural and environmental virtues that sustainable development can achieve.

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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